Malaysia: Orang utan gain in Sabah move to protect forests

New Straits Times 25 Aug 12;

PRAISED: NGOs welcome re-gazetting of 183,000ha site as protected forest

THREE Sabah-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have expressed their support for the move by the Sabah Forestry Department to re-gazette 183,000 ha of heavily logged Class 2 Commercial Forest into Class 1 Protection Forest, which makes it a protected area.Responding to an announcement recently that the department had decided to convert the Ulu Segama Forest Reserve and the northern part of Gunung Rara Forest Reserve into a protected area, the scientific director of HUTAN-Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme, Dr Marc Ancrenaz, said: "This re-gazette will serve to secure habitat for Malaysia's largest orang utan population, as well as for a wide range of biological diversity".

"HUTAN has been assisting in surveys and monitoring of orang-utans in this area for the past few years, so we are especially pleased to see this move by the state government," said Marc in a joint statement, here, yesterday.

Founder of LEAP (Land Empowerment Animals People) Cynthia Ong said in the same statement that nationally and regionally, Sabah was emerging as a leader in pushing the boundaries in management of natural ecosystem services, and for treating forests as stores of water, carbon and biodiversity rather than just as timber sources.

"We still have major problems and issues to address, but this is the sort of change that we do want to see."

Also in the same statement, Datuk Junaidi Payne of Borneo Rhino Alliance said the main merit of this plan was to make it more difficult for any government in the future to convert the lowland parts of these forest reserves to oil palm plantations.

"Which is what will otherwise happen.

"Oil palm grown on accessible lowland soils yields the best returns to company shareholders over any other land used outside towns, as well as the highest taxation potential to the state government, on a per hectare per year basis.

"That is fine, but companies are not obliged to pay for the adverse impacts such as lower water quality, lost carbon or lost biodiversity, or for the opportunity costs to other industrial sectors." Bernama